O how they stay behind to tend
wounds that most of us don’t know.
My father licking the salt
out of my mother’s grief.
My mother putting a band-aid
on my father’s empty hands.
Their voices get quieter by the day, like music
that slowly freezes in the air.
Their bodies, bars of soap
stranded in water.
On mild afternoons they stroll parks,
laugh for what they miss.
Then they return
to the house where we left all
that was useless.
What they see is not enough.
An empty coffee cup on the table.
Young faces smiling in photographs.
A baby’s shoe.
Some nights they talk about us,
their children, who live in distant cities,
who without knowing
also practice being alone.
—from If I Go Missing © Octavio Quintanilla
OCTAVIO QUINTANILLA is the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) and the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, TX. His poetry, fiction, translations, and photography have appeared, or are forthcoming, in journals such as Salamander, Poetry Northwest, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pilgrimage, Green Mountains Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Existere: A Journal of Art & Literature, and elsewhere. Visual poems have been exhibited in several galleries, including Presa House Gallery, Equinox Gallery, and at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, TX. He holds a PhD from the University of North Texas and is the regional editor for Texas Books in Review and poetry editor for The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism & for Voices de la Luna: A Quarterly Literature & Arts Magazine. Octavio teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the M.A./M.F.A. program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. writeroctavioquintanilla
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